Notorious Nora Sutherlin is famous for her delicious works of erotica, each one more popular with readers than the last. But her latest manuscript is different—more serious, more personal—and she's sure it'll be her breakout book... if it ever sees the light of day.
Zachary Easton holds Nora's fate in his well-manicured hands. The demanding British editor agrees to handle the book on one condition: he wants complete control. Nora must rewrite the entire novel to his exacting standards—in six weeks—or it's no deal.
Nora's grueling writing sessions with Zach are draining... and shockingly arousing. And a dangerous former lover has her wondering which is more tortuous—staying away from him... or returning to his bed?
Nora thought she knew everything about being pushed to your limits. But in a world where passion is pain, nothing is ever that simple..
I have already shamelessly outed myself as a fan of Tiffany Reisz a while back ago, when I reviewed The King. Recently someone who loves me **pokes Barb** gifted me with the rest of the Red Years series for Christmas. So just to do this thing right I’ve reread The Siren so that it will be fresh in my mind when I start The Angel, the next book in this series. Because I couldn't help myself, I wound up attempting to explain the entire series when I reviewed the King, so you may recognize some of what is written here.
This series focuses on Nora Sutherlin, an erotica writer. Nora is exceedingly good at what she does, and has made piles of money doing just that, but now wants to break into a more serious form of literature. Shameless brain trash has it’s place of course, and can be a lot of fun, but in the Siren Nora is trying to write a “serious” novel. Due to her earlier work, Nora has gotten a reputation for being scandalous. She is known for being uninhibited, she wears a LOT of red leather, and rumor has it that she has a 19 year old boy for an intern. (True) Zach Easton is the editor given her manuscript, and at first he is totally against editing her novel, calling her a “guttersnipe writer”. Upon meeting her and actually reading her work he changes his mind. He is determined that she will rewrite literally the entire novel before he will allow it to be published. Many times in this book, you run across the line “this is not a romance story” as a matter of fact, Zach mentions to one of the other editors that Nora is writing an “anti-romance” story. The novel is about a man (who’s kinky) and a woman (who’s not). Where a lot of stories go wrong *cough* fifty shades *cough* is assuming that you can magically make someone kinky or not. Some people are just not wired that way, and wishing as hard as you can is not going to change that.
It’s through Zach’s eyes that we meet Nora, and are introduced to her world and the unique cast of characters that inhabit it. Wesley is Nora’s “intern”, which is really just a title. He’s a college student, Southern, and very naive. I mean really naive, even more so than I was at that age, which is really saying something. He’s also in love with Nora, and I’m ¾ sure that she’s also “in love” with him. They both tell themselves that they are just best friends, but it’s plain to see that it’s a doomed romance.
One of the secrets Nora is keeping from Zach is that she is not only a writer, she is a dominatrix, and within the world of BDSM is one of the most sought after wielders of a riding crop. Well, she’s open about being a Domme, she just doesn’t want Zach to know that she gets paid for it. Along the way you are introduced to Kingsley, Nora’s “boss”, best friend, and “king” of the underworld. Kingsley owns The Eighth Circle, which is a massive BDSM club and a haven for anyone within the kink lifestyle. Eventually Nora takes Zach there, to show him “her world”. He’s amazed that she is treated like royalty there. Finally, you are introduced to Soren, the love of Nora’s life (and Kingsley’s to be honest, but that’s another story), her former lover and master, the only person on the planet she will sub for.
You see one of the twists is, Soren’s not only a Dom, or just a sadist (which he is), he’s also a priest. Yep, a collar-and-robes, says-Mass-on-Sunday, I’m-going-straight-to-hell-for-being-attracted-to-him priest. **shrugs** Maybe it’s the element of forbidden-ness, but I find this whole concept just sexy as hell. There’s a lot of people that don’t, but hey, it’s a free country.
She and Soren were together for many years, but at the point where this novel begins they have been separated for five years. He offered to leave the priesthood for her, but she wouldn’t let him, instead leaving him. Although they are not “together” he is still her master, and as such she is still compelled to come when he calls, and listen when he speaks. When Nora finally got up out of the bed after leaving Soren she called Kingsley, telling him she didn’t care what she had to do, she had to find a way to make some money. That’s where Nora the Mistress began. There’s no way Soren would ever allow her to sub for anyone else, so she became a Domme, and a very famous one at that. The massive amounts of money she made doing that allowed her the freedom to write her novels, which sold like hotcakes as well. She is hoping that the novel she is writing now will prove to be popular enough that she can quit her Domme job with King. She tells herself that this is what she wants, when in reality it is what Wesley wants, for her to just be a writer, for her to be “normal” or as normal as Nora could be.
Soren has been telling Nora throughout this book that she has to do something with Wesley. The boy loves her, and she loves him, and it’s not the fact that she’s older and more experienced or that he’s so young and naive and a virgin that’s the sticking point. It’s that she’s kinky and he’s not. Soren has told her this over and over again, but being hardheaded, Nora just hasn’t wanted to listen. It’s pretty obvious that Soren is patiently waiting for her to come back to him.
What is it that Nora loves about Wesley, other than his winning personality and general physical loveliness? Does he represent the life she could have had, had she not taken the path that she did? It’s pretty obvious that the novel that she is writing is really about her and Wesley. At one point she and Wesley actually try to make love, and it’s obvious, both to us and to Nora, that it’s just not going to work, and they both deserve better than to pretend to be something they aren’t. I think this conversation between Nora and Wesley sums it up nicely:
(Nora to Wesley)
“I don’t know how to be with someone like you. I don’t know the rules to this game.”
“It’s not a game”
“Then how will we win?”
Wesley on the other hand, comes off as a paragon of innocence. He’s a sweet, S0uthern, smart, Christian virgin, who is so unlike any male of my experience that it’s laughable. No teenage boy is THAT good, unless he’s been raised in a bubble. Have you ever known a boy that age to actively turn down sex? Me neither! Now I get that some people have morals and values and blahdiblah, but to have those moral and values stretch to where you would allow yourself to live with someone who your upbringing should have you run screaming from? Naw, no way Wesley’s got a halo and wings the way Nora seems to think that he does.
It’s a good thing that the author uses Zack as our “in” into this world, because you get the distinct feeling that you’re coming in on the middle of a long and complicated story. You get just enough information on Nora and Soren’s past to make you wonder what the whole story is. Zack has his own drama going on - he and his wife Grace are separated; Zack is trying - and failing - to not be an absolute wreck about it. He’s attracted to Nora, and is secretly mildly kinky himself. He feels a lot of guilt over Grace. They met when she was a student of his, so there’s the whole teacher/student angle that he feels bad about (he really shouldn’t). Shortly after they began seeing each other she became pregnant, and he married her, which he feels badly about, thinking that she could have done so much better than he. The pregnancy was ectopic, which was very painful and caused her damage that can’t be undone. So he’s carrying that load around too. Nora, in her own special way with words, helps him to realize that it’s not his wife that’s left him, but that his guilt pushed her farther and farther away from him.
In the end Zach and Grace reunite, and I am perfectly happy with that. Nora and Zach were never meant to be together like that. He and Grace together is the only way it could have worked out. Nora realized that almost from the very start. Nora realizes that Soren was right the entire time, that letting Wesley stay with her will only do them both harm in the long run. She gives in and goes back to Soren, which was the only ultimatum that Wesley had ever given her: that if she returned to Soren he would leave. It was the only way she knew to break their bond. She didn’t want to, and it hurt them both, but again, she knew it from the moment she started writing her book, The Consolation Prize - it was about her and Wesley the entire time.
The thing I love about this series is that all of the characters are just as flawed as hell. There’s no “good guy”, no “bad guy”, you are compelled to love and hate them all at times. While I’m fond of Nora, and I think that I understand why she got involved with Wesley, I still think she should have known better, and did him a disservice to him by “stringing him along” for such a long time. In the back of her mind she had to know that it could only have ended one way. But like I said, she’s hard headed, which is another thing about her that I like. I’ve been accused of hardheadedness myself a few times, thanks, Mom. (lol) I got the impression that she felt relieved to be Soren’s Eleanor again; like she had been physically holding herself back from running - flying - back to him for years and years. So, I’m dying to know what is going to happen in the next book, so be looking for a review of The Angel soon.
Till then, keep it between the pages.